Sadly, our Kyushu basho has come to a close. Kakuryu has won his third tournament in solid, convincing fashion. I’ve been critical of him in the past and will continue to be critical of him. I still feel he was elevated early. We expect this performance from our yokozuna every tournament. We need to see this carry into the next year with Kakuryu in contention again. The same goes for Harumafuji…who was in contention this tournament and had FOUR yusho under his belt as an OZEKI. I think it is always a better legacy to be a great ozeki than an underperforming yokozuna.
As I review the tournament I will revisit the key story lines we raised before the matches started.
- Terunofuji survives as Ozeki, barely. His first few bouts were painful to watch. But he must have eaten his spinach after Day 2 as he won his next seven straight.
- Shodai and Endo both put on a show. Endo sure shocked me by beating three Ozeki and Hakuho in his first week. Things cooled off for him and he just missed getting a winning record, and likely a special prize. His losses weren’t to pufters, though, either. He fell to Tochiozan and Yoshikaze who both ended on worse records but are clearly solid former sanyaku wrestlers. As for Shodai, his easier schedule sure helped him as he DID get a special prize. His biggest victory was likely the spoiler win against Kisenosato at the end of the first week. The Ozeki was in contention but Shodai’s win ended up being decisive. He’ll face a much harder schedule as shin-sekiwake in January. Both times he went through the ringer as Maegashira 2, going 0-6 and 0-7. Personally, I’m more impressed with Endo this tournament, in spite of the worse record and it’s great to see him competing well at this level.
- The sinkhole got fixed in a week. Efficient.
- Hokutofuji and Ishiura had very successful debut tournaments. Ishiura’s performance was a bit more electric as he was even in yusho contention well into week 2, garnering a special prize. Hokutofuji finished with one fewer win but I feel he will fit better among the middle maegashira in January.
- Mitakeumi’s sanyaku debut was quiet as his only win during week one was to the poor-performing Kotoshogiku. He picked up much needed wins in week two against easier opponents but is clearly not ready to take on championship caliber competitors.
- Yay, Hakuho’s back! His loss to Endo was quite the shocker but a 90% Hakuho is still a great competitor. He finished with 4 losses which is better than his previous 10-5 record in July. I’m not going to break out a crystal ball and prognosticate about how many more tournaments or how many more years he’s got of competitive sumo ahead. I’m just looking forward to January.
- Takayasu’s path to Ozeki will need to start again at square one. He was unable to secure even a winning record but he may not drop out of sanyaku altogether. He’ll likely be komusubi in Tokyo.
- Ichinojo under-performed but it was probably a good thing. He’ll stay in the lower reaches of the makuuchi and can hopefully work on his technique and speed. We saw speed from Aoiyama, now the big man in the division. Ichinojo will get there with more training.
As always, a big Thank You to Bruce for his great contributions (and the new look)!